ABSTRACT

Because schools are “sites of identity” (Steinitz & Solomon, 1986), places where young people develop a sense of self and self in relation to others, they represent an opportune context to do the important work of both youth development and education towards social change and social justice. In an increasingly multicultural school system, children have the potential to understand themselves through a cultural lens to de-center their understanding and experience as they meet and create connections to children across cultural boundaries of ethnicity, language, religion, and culture. In turn, these experiences may support children to understand both how they may be similar as well as different from their peers. Because positive intergroup contact has been linked to prejudice reduction (Pettigrew, 1998; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006), reduction in intergroup anxiety (Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008) increased intergroup friendships (Tropp & Prenovost, 2008, for review), and myriad other social-emotional competencies (Lease & Blake, 2005; Kawabata & Crick, 2008; Turner, Hewstone, & Voci, 2007), European schools are adopting an intercultural education framework and looking for strategies to support intergroup contact, dialogue, and learning. This is an important focus. Supporting intimate, empathic, caring cross-cultural relationships is an important focus of educators interested in building a more inclusive society. Yet, intergroup contact alone does not decrease prejudice or discrimination, and diversity in and of itself does not promote positive intergroup contact (Turner & Cameron, 2016). Many institutionalized support systems must be in place in order for intergroup contact to be positive and influential. In fact, several research studies have demonstrated that there are some negative consequences associated with intergroup contact, especially for minoritized group members, who may, in fact, experience increased discrimination and isolation that impacts their academic and social-emotional development (Benner & Kim, 2009; Mendoza-Denton, Downey, Purdie, Davis, & Pietrzak, 2002). Furthermore, even when intergroup contact and dialogue happen under the best conditions, individuals’ prejudice reduction alone cannot generate institutional change and social justice on a macro scale, which is needed if minoritized individuals are to participate meaningfully and equitably in a truly pluralistic society. Hence, demographically diverse schools and intergroup 103contact alone do not create the context needed for prejudice reduction and the creation of pluralistic, multicultural or intercultural contexts that are equitable for all young people. Furthermore, prejudice reduction alone, while necessary, is not sufficient to change our society and dismantle systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and many more systems of injustice. In other words, while working on the individual level (or the microsystem) is important, it does not impact the institutional and structural level (the macrosystem). We understand that both must be acted upon if we are to create equitable spaces for all young people to thrive. Thus, we certainly believe that interventions at the interpersonal level are positive and necessary in the classroom, but, alone, they are not sufficient to change schools, institutions, or society at large towards equity and social justice.